The Annual Work Christmas Party. Most people are familiar with this tradition. I do not actually have a “workplace”, but every year I dutifully trot out with my husband to his work party. For me, it is a foray into a strange world that I rarely interact with. Honestly, I’m usually a bit tense when I go. I am pretty sure that I am the only stay-at-home mom who attends these things and I admit to feeling a bit insecure. Especially the time, 2 years ago, when I attended and was 9 months pregnant. I endured all kinds of comments (because everyone knows that we have a large family). OH MY GOD! ….YOU ARE SO BIG!… I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU GOT PREGNANT AGAIN!… WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO STOP?? ..It was so much fun…Not. That, combined with the fact that they set up the party space with stand up tables and a dance floor and no chairs in sight, made it a rather long evening.
So, here we go again. It’s the one time of the year when I have to find something dressier than blue jeans and a sweater. I actually think I would enjoy the party a lot more if it was just my husband’s construction company. But, Andy’s boss, a well-to-do Englishman who develops property for the fun of it, as he is well past retirement age, is married to an equally successful business woman, Ms Patricia Nash, and the two of them decided some time back to combine their businesses Christmas Parties into one Big Party. So, we have a bunch of construction guys and then we have a bunch of fashion designers. It makes for an interesting party. Mostly the construction guys all hang out on one side of the room while the fashion designers hang out on the other side of the room and the bosses and managers try to circulate among everyone and break the ice.
The bosses are actually very nice people, very down to earth. Mr. Nash has no problem chatting it up with Ronnie, a homeless guy my husband employed 5 years ago who has managed to keep his job and achieve some stability all this time, and Ms Patricia walks around dispensing hugs and air kisses to all and sundry. There is an open bar, a raffle, good food, and lots of dancing. Mr and Mrs Nash always make a point to get out on the dance floor, looking very cute together, and then try their best to entice the wallflowers to come join them. I try to make the wives and dates of the construction guys feel welcome and we stand and talk about kids, and teens, and work, and getting ready for Christmas.
So, last night proceeded as usual. Several people got amazingly drunk very early on in the party. As I watched the secretary being dragged out on the dance floor by her friends, and watched as the combination of drunkenness, spike heels, and attempting to dance, made her fall not once but twice, I couldn’t help thinking that she might do with some better friends. I watched as the young couples from the fashion design section got out and danced, some of them really good dancers, and then watched as the younger ones would video themselves dancing and then stand off to the side to watch a rerun of their dance, and then quickly upload it to social media. The music was so loud that the only way you could have a conversation was if you were speaking into someone’s ear.
Frankly I felt very out of place and wondered how long we had to stay. Andy and I had found one little bench pushed off to the side and we were sitting there watching the dancing when Ms. Nash came and sat down beside us. She started saying how much she admired me and the fact that I was raising 10 kids and how amazing it was that Andy and I were able to have a good marriage and work together in raising our family. And then she asked if we would share why we had decided to have so many kids. So I told her about how we had decided to let God be in charge of our family size and how, as we had more kids, we realized that we really enjoyed having a large family. It was a bizarre conversation to be having in this setting, shouting over the music. The Nashes finally took their leave of us, expressing genuine fondness for my husband and I. One of Andy’s coworkers finally persuaded us to take the dance floor for a while. We eventually checked the time and decided we had done our duty and could leave.
As we drove home I thought about the party. Definitely not my style. Not my comfort zone either. But it had been a good party. Even now, I am trying to pinpoint what made it good? A bunch of people who had very little in common all got together in one space and made an effort to be friendly to each other. People from a very wide range of social and economic statuses all joined together in one room to celebrate together. In this crazy world where we, as Christians, tend to compartmentalize our lives into “sacred” and “secular”, I can’t help thinking that sacred seems to have a way of showing up in the most secular settings. I think about my husband’s crew. Ronnie who got a second chance and has been succeeding. Then there’s the young man who somehow managed to get through a court-appointed rehab program and not only stuck it out, but has managed to stay clean for 3 plus years. He and his wife won the raffle and walked away with a nice Christmas bonus and I was so happy they won, knowing it was going to make their Christmas a lot more cheerful for them and their kids. Then there was the young couple who moved down to Knoxville together. She’s working, he’s in law school. They were talking about how they would be traveling around trying to see all their extended families for the holidays. There was my husband’s assistant showing pictures of his newest grandbaby on his phone. And the wife of one of the crew leaders telling me about her challenges with her teenage boy, same age as my boy. People. It was an evening of seeing people, getting glimpses into their lives. “Who is my neighbor?” These people. They are my neighbor. For some reason God said that loving him and then loving these people, that was the most important thing. And really, any time we have an opportunity to get a peek into someone’s life, it’s a sacred moment. Because as we peek into their lives, they become more real to us, less strangers, more neighbors, and it becomes easier to care about them, to feel an interest in their life. To pray for them, reach out to them. Share love. Yes. The Annual Work Christmas Party, a sacred moment.